Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and facing trial for allegedly masterminding the 9/11 terror attacks, lashed out at prosecutors in a courtroom on Wednesday, accusing the U.S. of extra-judicial killings and circumvention of due legal process in its fight against al-Qaeda.
In what is considered an allusion to the killings of Osama bin Laden and perhaps Anwar al-Awlaki, Mohammed said, “The President can take someone and throw him into the sea under the name of national security and so he can also legislate the assassinations under the name of national security for the American citizens.”
In a dramatic moment, he also argued against the court “getting affected by the crocodile tears,” adding “Your blood is not made out of gold and ours is made out of water. We are all human beings”. He went on to argue, “When the government feels sad for the death or the killing of 3,000 people who were killed on September 11, we also should feel sorry that the American government... and others have killed thousands of people, millions.”
According to the American Forces Press Service, Army Colonel James Pohl — the judge overseeing the Mohammed case and that of four others charged with planning and conducting the 9/11 attacks — gave Mohammed the all-clear to address the court. Earlier, the judge had also granted Mohammed’s wish to wear camouflage clothing.
When arrangements were made for Mohammed to speak in Arabic using an English interpreter, he also hinted at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s alleged use of torture including the infamous “water-boarding” technique. He said, “Many can kill people under the name of national security, and to torture people under the name of national security, and to detain children under the name of national security, underage children.”
The controversy behind Mohammed’s request to wear camouflage clothing in court had stemmed from the fact that U.S. prosecutors were seeking to argue that Mohammed and his co-conspirators were “unlawful belligerents who are not entitled to the combat immunity granted to soldiers who kill in battle”, rather than uniformed soldiers who “follow a clear command structure, carry arms openly and adhere to the laws of war.”
Defence Attorney Army Captain Jason Wright argued earlier this week that denying Mohammed permission to wear a military-style garb “could undermine his presumption of innocence in the war crimes tribunal,” adding that “The government has a burden to prove that this enemy prisoner of war is an unprivileged enemy belligerent”.